Kish named interim Gibault principal

Mike Kish

Mike Kish, the longtime principal of Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Columbia, will be serving as principal at Gibault  Catholic High School in Waterloo for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year.

The recent announcement came from Diocese of Belleville Superintendent Jonathon Birdsong in a letter shared last Wednesday with Gibault families.

In the letter, Birdsong described the state of Gibault over the past few months, with Gibault Vice Principal and Athletic Director Jim Montgomery serving as interim building administrator while other staff and faculty took on additional responsibilities within the school.

Birdsong further explained that the school and diocese have been considering a number of short- and long-term solutions for the school, ultimately deciding to appoint Kish as principal for the time being.

“His experience and decades of service as the principal and leader at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Columbia, along with his personal friendship with Fr. Hustedde, give him a unique perspective and passion for Gibault,” Birdsong said. “I expect his excitement about this opportunity and the impact of his arrival to be immediately felt by everyone.”

Kish’s appointment as principal comes months after the resignation of previous Gibault Principal Stephen Kidd, who stepped away following the first day of classes in August.

A number of concerns in the Gibault community were raised in the weeks that followed, with many wondering why Kidd had left.

Kish is well-known in Monroe County for his many years serving at ICS, but he has been a practicing Catholic his entire life.

“I was a little Catholic boy from a strong Catholic family,” Kish said. “Always loved hanging around the altar in church. Loved serving, loved learning my Latin. I’m a pre-Vatican II kid that went to the seminary after grade school. Spent five years in the seminary studying for the priesthood, and it kinda made me who I am.”

While he later found the priesthood wasn’t quite for him, he ended up becoming a Catholic school teacher in 1971 with a degree in history and a minor in English education.

Kish described seeing his students be successful and the feeling of knowing he was able to make a difference for them as some of the bigger reasons for his interest in education.

As Birdsong described in his letter, Kish was a long-time friend of Gibault founder Fr. Ed Hustedde.

Kish recalled a childhood memory of watching a young Hustedde play baseball with members of his parish, and generally spoke highly of him – noting the impact Hustedde had on Gibault and himself.

“What can we do if we work together?” Kish said. “And that’s kinda been Gibault’s message over its existence. Fr. Ed Hustedde was an amazing guy, and I had a long, long relationship with him.”

Kish said he had heard his name tossed around in the weeks following Kidd’s departure earlier in the school year, though he had no part in those discussions at the time.

One person to mention Kish early on was longtime Gibault math teacher and legendary basketball coach Dennis Rueter, who at a school board meeting following Kidd’s departure recommended Kish as someone who might be able to get the school back on track following a rough start to the year.

That sentiment is now seemingly shared by other folks at Gibault. A post on Gibault’s Facebook page sharing Birdsong’s letter has a number of individuals voicing their support of Kish’s appointment.

Montgomery similarly expressed his thoughts on Kish coming to Gibault for the year.

“We are very fortunate to have Mike come on board with us, and I look forward to working closely with Mike for the remainder of the school year,” Montgomery said.

Kish said he understands the concerns of those who might question his abilities, with the oversight of a high school being quite different from that of a grade school.

Kish said he will be relying on Gibault’s faculty to help train him where necessary, and he is already thankful for the support the diocese and Gibault community have offered him.

Kish also emphasized that his time at Gibault will be temporary, as he merely hopes to be “the set-up guy for the new principal” as he helps keep Gibault “flying and happy and a wonderful place to learn” alongside what he said is a list of very talented faculty.

“It’s not about me,” Kish said. “Taking this job is not about me. It’s about the school. It’s about keeping something going.”

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